Proverbs Chapter 13

by Rick

(13:1) A Teachable Spirit

(Prov 13:1 NIV) A wise son heeds his father’s instruction, but a mocker does not listen to rebuke.

This morning we continue our series, “Unlocking the Power of Proverbs – Walking in the Wisdom of God.”  In this verse Solomon contrasts those who heed their father’s (or parent’s) instruction with those refuse to.  Solomon calls the people who receive and respond to what their parents have to say “wise.”  To those who reject fatherly counsel, he gives the label of a “mocker.”  Other translations call this person a “scoffer,” “scorner,” “stubborn,” and “foolish.”  Now, remember whom we are receiving this from.  This was the wisest man to ever live (outside of Jesus).  Not only that, but the Holy Spirit Himself inspired Solomon to write these words.  So, from Godly inspiration and personal experience, Solomon tells us that it would be wise for sons to heed their father’s instruction; it would be beneficial for the child to welcome the correction of the parent.  Why?  Because the parent: 1) loves the child and would never do anything to harm them, 2) has already been where the child is attempting to go and can therefore teach from experience, and 3) has a mandate from God to train up the child in the way of righteousness.

Since both Solomon and David wrote scripture, we have a historical record their teachings.  When teaching from Solomon’s writings I like to highlight instances where Solomon either directly quoted or simply repeated something his father said, and there are quite a few.  This tells me that Solomon learned from his father.  David learned out in the fields with God.  David was educated in the school of hard knocks.  He was often isolated from his family and he spent countless hours with his sheep and his God.  He developed his relationship with the Lord His Shepherd, as he learned to shepherd his flock.  He developed a reliance on God’s strength, as he killed a lion and a bear with his bare hands.  He developed a trust in God’s protection, as he survived the many attempts Saul made on his life.  In many ways, David started from nothing (the fields) and made it to the top (the throne).  This meant that Solomon did not have to endure what David endured.  Solomon was born a prince.  Solomon had the best education.  Solomon spent quality time with his father as David developed him and prepared him to eventually take the throne.  That’s why I believe Solomon has so much to say about listening to your parents and receiving correction.  All children make mistakes, but only those that are willing to be corrected are the ones that can be developed! Look at any large family and the chances are that you will find one or two children that refused correction.  They were the stubborn and foolish Solomon talks about.  Since they refused to be teachable, they were never adequately taught, and their lives show the proof of it!

Solomon has said allot about this already and he is not finished.  In the upcoming writings he says: “He who ignores discipline comes to poverty and shame, but whoever heeds correction is honored” (13:18); “Only a fool despises a parent’s discipline; whoever learns from correction is wise” (15:5); “Know-it-alls don’t like being told what to do; they avoid the company of wise men and women” (15:12); “If you reject discipline, you only harm yourself; but if you listen to correction, you grow in understanding” (15:32).

So what does this mean to you today? It means that if you desire to maximize your purpose and potential in life, before you die, you must maintain a teachable spirit.  If you ever get to the point where you refuse to learn from your earthly parents or heavenly Father, you will not be fit for the Kingdom.  God’s rejects the proud, but He gives grace to the humble (1st Peter 5).  So be thankful for what you know, but know that you don’t know it all!

Confession for Today:  Father, I declare, right now, by faith, that I maintain a teachable spirit all the days of my life.  The more I know, the more I realize I don’t know it all.  So I remain humble before You and before my parents.  I respect authority and I refuse to disrespect the authority figures in my life.  I honor my parents all the days of my life. I thank You for what You have given me in them and I seek to honor them and honor You, daily, as I endeavor to develop into the person You desire for me to be.  Teach me Father, I am willing to learn!  In Jesus’ name.  Amen!

(13:2) The Fruit of Your Lips

(Prov 13:2 KJV) A man shall eat good by the fruit of his mouth: but the soul of the transgressors shall eat violence.

This morning we continue our series, “Unlocking the Power of Proverbs – Walking in the Wisdom of God.”  In this verse Solomon hits another reoccurring theme: the importance of our words.  He has already taught us a great deal about this and he continues to do so. I have already shared with you some of what Jesus, James, David and others have said about it.  The fruit of your mouth is your words and they will either produce a good or bad harvest.  In chapter 18 Solomon explained it this way: “From the fruit of their mouths people’s stomachs are filled; with the harvest of their lips they are satisfied.  The tongue has the power of life and death, and those who love it will eat its fruit” (18:20,21).  The power of life and death is in our tongue.  This little piece of flesh releases the intent of our soul (mind, emotions and will).  What’s in us abundantly comes out of us eventually.

The quality of our words reveals the content of our heart.  Jesus explained this well when He said, “The good man brings good things out of the good stored up in him, and the evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored up in him.”  In other words, a good man speaks from the good content in his heart, and his words open the door to life, blessing, peace, harmony, and etc.; they build up and they do not tear down.  However, a wicked man speaks from the wicked content in his heart, and his words produce death, cursing, turmoil, discord, and etc.; they tear down and do not build up.  Jesus went on to say: “But I tell you that men will have to give account on the day of judgment for every careless word they have spoken.  For by your words you will be acquitted, and by your words you will be condemned” (Matthew 12:35-37).  That’s serious business.  God is so serious about the words that proceed from our mouths that He tells us that we will some day have to give account for everything we said.  Standing before God, our words will be reviewed and judged.  But in addition to the importance of the ultimate judgment of our words, which will happen in the future, we must understand the important of our words today.  Our lives will be either satisfied or dissatisfied, today, from what comes out of our mouths.  In the last chapter Solomon said, “The wicked are trapped by their own words” (12:13).  I already mentioned what Jesus said in Matthew chapter 12 and if that did not paint a serious enough picture, in the 15th chapter He said, “It’s not what goes into your mouth that defiles you; you are defiled by the words that come out of your mouth” (Matthew 15:11).

So what does this mean to you today? It means that one way or another you WILL have what you say (Mark 11:23).  If that is true (and it is), then you must make every effort to speak life and not death, blessing and not cursing, love and not hatred, peace and not worry, harmony and not discord, because your life will be filled from the fruit that comes out of your mouth (your words).  Paul said, “Don’t let any evil talk come out of your mouths.  Say only what will help to build others up and meet their needs.  Then what you say will help those who listen” (Eph 4:29); and if I can add to what Paul said, not only will your Godly words help those who listen, but they will help you as well.  When you speak words that edify, uplift and encourage, you literally sow seeds of righteousness, and believe me, you will reap a harvest that will be pleasing to you and all those around you!

Confession for Today:  Father, Your Word is clear.  I know I will eat from the fruit that proceeds from my mouth.  I will either be satisfied or dissatisfied, because of my words.  Therefore, I declare, by faith, that I take authority over my mind.  I bring every thought into captivity.  I reign in the thoughts that are not pleasing to you.  I check the input I receive – through my ear and eye gates – so that my heart is filled with the right things.  Once my heart is filled with Godly input and my thoughts are under control, my words will ONLY be words that are pleasing in Your sight; words that build up and never tear down.  Since I will eventually have what I say, I will only say things that are a blessing to You, Father, and to others!  In Jesus’ name.  Amen!

(13:3) Careful (Faith-Filled) Words!

(Prov 13:3 MSG) Careful words make for a careful life; careless talk may ruin everything.

This morning we continue our series, “Unlocking the Power of Proverbs – Walking in the Wisdom of God.”  In this verse Solomon continues to drive home the importance of our words.  The Father has gone to great lengths – giving us principles and examples of the ‘power of the tongue’ all throughout the Bible – to ensure that we put careful thought into what we say.  From a Biblical perspective, careful words are Faith-Filled words; they are words that line up with God, His Word, His promises and His desire for our lives.  Careless words are words that are contrary to what God wants to do in our lives.  Let’s take a look at the story of the conception of John the Baptist as an example.

In Luke chapter one we read that the angel Gabriel was sent from God to meet Zechariah.  Zechariah was a priest who was on shift, praying in the temple.  The angel Gabriel appeared to him and said, “Zechariah; your prayer has been heard.  Your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you are to give him the name John.  He will be a joy and delight to you, and many will rejoice because of his birth, for he will be great in the sight of the Lord… he will be filled with the Holy Spirit even from birth.  Many of the people of Israel will he bring back to the Lord their God… he will turn the hearts of the fathers to their children and the disobedient to the wisdom of the righteous—to make ready a people prepared for the Lord.”  So, it is obvious that Zechariah had been praying for God to bless him with a child.  The Lord answered his prayer.  The Father sent an angel to announce to him that, not only were he and his wife going to have a baby, but this baby would bring revival to the land.  In today’s terms, its like Gabriel was saying, “You are going to have a son and he will be the next T.D. Jakes!”  You would think that Zechariah would be ecstatic!  You would think that he would have started praising God.  But no, Zechariah doubted.  He said, “How can I be sure of this?  I am an old man and my wife is well along in years.” Zechariah was trying to make sense of it.  His wife had been barren all her life and she was now old.  He was trying to rationalize the situation.  The problem is that God is Spiritual, not sensual.  Faith does not make sense.  God’s promises must be believed, not figured out.  Many believers have worked there way out of the will of God, because of reason, logic and common sense.  Gabriel was not happy.  The angel said, “I have been sent to speak to you and to tell you this good news.  And now you will be silent and not able to speak until the day this happens, because you did not believe my words, which will come true at their proper time.” Zechariah did not believe what God said, so God shut his mouth.  He was not able to speak another word for 9 months.  God is so serious about the words that we speak that Zechariah was forbidden to say anything while his son, John the Baptist, was developing in his wife’s belly.  I believe this shielded John from Zechariah speaking words of fear, doubt and unbelief.

Interestingly enough, the same angel appeared to Elizabeth’s (Zechariah’s wife) cousin Mary six months later.  Mary spoke Faith-Filled words; saying, “May it be to me as you have said,” and she became pregnant without ever laying with a man!

So what does this mean to you today? It means exactly what Solomon said.  Careful (Faith-filled) words put you in the position to receive all that God desires for you to have and become all that God desires for you to be.  However, careless words (filled with fear, doubt and unbelief) may ruin everything.  Be determined to speak Faith-Filled words today!

Confession for Today:  Father, I declare, right now, by faith, that I align my speech with Your speech.  I align my words with Your Word.  I speak Faith-Filled words today and every day.  I refuse to speak words of fear, doubt or unbelief.  I will fill my mouth with words that are pleasing to You.  I will not speak against what You desire to do in my life.  No matter how big, how awesome, or how amazing Your promises may seem to the natural mind, I shall receive them by faith and align my words with them daily.  I speak careful words and I live a careful life!  In Jesus’ name.  Amen!

(13:4) Hard Work

(Prov 13:4 NIrV) People who refuse to work want things and get nothing.  But the longings of people who work hard are completely satisfied.

This morning we continue our series, “Unlocking the Power of Proverbs – Walking in the Wisdom of God.”  In this verse Solomon goes back to another reoccurring theme in his writings: hard work.  Solomon is clearly against laziness, because he knows what we should all know; and that is that laziness gets us nowhere.  Have you ever met someone who wants lots of things?  I know quite a few who spend a lot of time daydreaming about the person they would like to be some day or the things they would like to have.  Daydreaming, in and of itself, is not a bad thing.  I believe God wants us to dream big dreams.  But just know that it will take time, energy, and lots of effort to see the dreams manifested.  God is not in the business of giving lazy people freebies.  If he did He would just be promoting their laziness and giving them motivation to remain in their lethargic state.  No!  God does not have a welfare plan.  He will work with you and bless the work of your hands, but that means you have to give Him something to bless.

The New Living Translation reads: “Lazy people want much but get little, but those who work hard will prosper.”  Who do you think gets ahead life?  Solomon gives us the answer: those who are willing to work hard.  And this pertains to every area of life.  Often, after teaching a Bible Study or preaching a message, a young believer will come up to me and say, “Rick, I want to teach, or preach, like you.  How do I get started?”  I tell them to study and I give them a few references.  I may give them a book to read or an assignment to look up.  I then ask them to get back with me.  Most don’t, but for those that do, I try to help them as much as I can.  I teach Minister’s Training here in Iraq twice a month.  It’s an eye-opening experience for many young Ministers when they realize how much work goes into one sermon.  When I teach them about understanding the text, in context, the historical significance, how they must be true to what it meant (back then) before they start making conclusions about what it means (today), and how to draw from parallel texts, they begin to realize that this is hard work.  It has been said that it takes anywhere from 30-40 hours of study for every one hour of preaching.  I preached yesterday and I will be teaching Bible Study tonight.  I know, first-hand, how time consuming it is, but this is what I am called to do.  Since it’s God’s will, it’s God’s bill.  He gives me the strength, but I have to be willing to put in the work.

We have a marathon coming up here in Iraq.  A few of our church members are preparing for it.  They have a training plan and they are sticking to it.  This past Saturday there was a half-marathon scheduled.  I talked to one of our church sisters about it, because I know she is preparing for the marathon.  I asked her if she was going to run the race.  She told me that she was, but since her training plan had her running 18 miles that day, she got up before 4am, ran 5 miles, and then ran the 13.1 miles required for the half-marathon.  There are many people that would “like to” run that far, that may daydream about it, but unless they get up and do it, they will never cross the finish line.

So what does this mean to you today? It means that you have to work for what you want. Maybe preaching/teaching is not your thing and maybe you are not a runner.  That’s OK, the message is not about preaching or running; it’s about working.  No matter what you desire to do in life, it is possible, but it will require work.  If you are lazy, you will never get there!

Confession for Today:  Father, I thank You for this Word this morning.  I speak life over myself and I declare that I overcome laziness by faith.  I take control of my mind, emotions and will.  I refuse to allow procrastination and slothfulness to keep me from maximizing my potential today, this week, and for the rest of my life.  Father, I will work diligently and I ask You to bless the work of my hands.  As You bless me to dream big dreams, I declare, by faith, that I will put the work behind the dreams required to see the manifestation of them in my life.  I work hard and prosper!  In Jesus’ name.  Amen!

(13:5) Walking in Righteousness

(Prov 13:5 TNIV) The righteous hate what is false, but the wicked make themselves a stench and are filled with shame.

This morning we continue our series, “Unlocking the Power of Proverbs – Walking in the Wisdom of God.”  In this verse Solomon contrasts the desires of the righteous with the practices of the wicked.  We all know that the wicked have wicked desires, lusts, and practices.  We were all there.  I don’t expect a sinner to live like a believer.  I was once a sinner and I did my best to be a good one.  But I praise the Father for sending His Son to die so that I could live.  I am now made new in Christ Jesus (2 Cor 5:17) and I am called to walk in the newness of the life (Rom 6:4) Christ died to give me.  The same applies to you.  Jesus did not die in vain. He died for your salvation (to deliver you from hell and grant you access to heaven), but He also died for your sanctification (so that you could experience a change of life, while you are still in the earth).

Paul tells us that our minds must be renewed (Rom 12:1,2) once we come to Christ.  The point being that we must learn to love what God loves and hate what God hates.  Since the Father hates what is false, Solomon tells us that we are to hate it as well.  While the wicked are a stench in the Father’s nostrils, we are to live our lives in such a way that we become a sweet smelling savor.  There should be a clear difference between us and the world, between the righteous and the wicked, between the believer and the sinner.

John explains this well in his letters.  Let’s take a look at a few excerpts from his first letter: “This is the message we heard from Jesus and now declare to you: God is light, and there is no darkness in Him at all.  So we are lying if we say we have fellowship with God but go on living in spiritual darkness… But if we are living in the light, as God is in the light, then we have fellowship with each other, and the blood of Jesus, His Son, cleanses us from all sin.  If we claim we have no sin, we are only fooling ourselves and not living in the truth.  But if we confess our sins to Him, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all wickedness” (1st John 1:5-9).  “Everyone who sins is breaking God’s law, for all sin is contrary to the law of God.  And you know that Jesus came to take away our sins, and there is no sin in Him.  Anyone who continues to live in Him will not sin.  But anyone who keeps on sinning does not know Him or understand who He is.  Dear children, don’t let anyone deceive you about this: When people do what is right, it shows that they are righteous, even as Christ is righteous.  But when people keep on sinning, it shows that they belong to the devil, who has been sinning since the beginning. But the Son of God came to destroy the works of the devil.  Those who have been born into God’s family do not make a practice of sinning, because God’s life is in them. So they can’t keep on sinning, because they are children of God.  So now we can tell who are children of God and who are children of the devil.  Anyone who does not live righteously and does not love other believers does not belong to God.  This is the message you have heard from the beginning: We should love one another” (1st John 3:4-11).

So what does this mean to you today? The message is straightforward and simple this morning: love what God loves and hate what He hates.  Most believers don’t have a problem with learning to love what God loves, but many don’t want to truly hate what He hates.  They make concessions and excuses for sin and before they know it, they are caught up in it.  If you learn to literally hate what He hates you will develop distaste for wickedness and a true love for righteousness!

Confession for Today:  Father, I know that You are holy, righteous, and pure.  You are light and in You there is no darkness.  You are love and in You there is no selfishness.  I have a sincere desire to become more and more like You.  I have a hunger and thirst for righteousness.  I declare, by faith, that I will learn to love what You love and hate what You hate.  I will not make concessions or excuses for sin.  I shall call right, right and wrong, wrong.  I enter into this day having been made new in Christ Jesus and I walk in the newness of life!  In Jesus’ name.  Amen!

(13:6) Protection for the Righteous

(Prov 13:6 TNIV) Righteousness guards the person of integrity, but wickedness overthrows the sinner.

First of all, I want you to know that I will be heading out on travel some time today and I may be in transit over the next few days.  If you do not receive Today’s Word tomorrow or Friday it is because I am traveling to the US for a conference.  Please pray with me that God will bless the travels, the conference and all that we do.  Thank you.

This morning we continue our series, “Unlocking the Power of Proverbs – Walking in the Wisdom of God.”  In this verse Solomon contrasts the protection the believer enjoys with the vulnerability the sinner is eventually exposed to.  I see the protection Solomon addresses here in two ways.

Firstly, I believe that when you walk righteousness (or godliness), you shield yourself from all sorts of evil.  When you walk in Godly counsel it keeps you from opening the wrong doors.  The New Living Translation of this verse reads: “Godliness guards the path of the blameless, but the evil are misled by sin.”  Godliness is actually being “like God.”  Learning to love what He loves, hate what He hates, operate as He operates, forgive as He has forgiven us, show mercy, compassion, grace, and etc.  When you learn to live the life God desires for you to live, you will not be misled by the mistakes sinners expose themselves to every day.  While this will not happen overnight, godliness can be developed and it does pay big dividends.  Paul said, “Physical training is good, but training for godliness is much better, promising benefits in this life and in the life to come” (1st Timothy 4:8).  Developing in godliness will pay off now (in time) and later (in eternity).  Walking in godliness keeps you from the pitfalls that wreck so many lives.  The integrity of the believer keeps him shielded from sowing the wrong seed and therefore reaping the wrong harvest.

Secondly, when you walk in righteousness God protects you.  Solomon father David said, “God’s way is perfect.  All the LORD’s promises prove true.  He is a shield for all who look to Him for protection” (2nd Samuel 22:31).  It would take me much more than a few minutes to describe to you the many times the Lord has protected me.  The Bible is chock-full of scriptures that promise protection.  Let me share with you some of what Psalm 91 (the Psalm of Protection) says.  The psalmist tells us that if we abide under the shadow of God (v.1) that the Lord will keep us safe from secret traps and deadly diseases (v.3).  He spread His wings over us to keep us secure.  His faithfulness over us will be like a shield or a city wall (v.4).  We won’t need to worry about dangers at night or during the day.  Nor will we have to fear diseases that strike in the dark or sudden disaster at noon.  Though thousands may fall around us, we will not be harmed (vv.5-7).  Only with our eyes will we see the punishment of the wicked (v.8).  The Most High God will be our fortress and we will run to Him safety (v.9).  No terrible disasters will strike us, nor our homes, because God will command His angels to protect us wherever we go (vv.10,11).  The angels will carry us in their arms and won’t allow us to be hurt (v.12).  Because we love the Lord, He will rescue us and keep us safe (v.14).  When we are in trouble, we can call out to Him.  He will hear us, answer us, and be there to protect us (v.15).  He will satisfy us with a long life and we will see His saving power (v.16).  If that does not get your blood pumping I don’t know what will!  The 91st Psalm is so powerful that most service members refer to it regularly, especially during deployments.

So what does this mean to you today? It means that have a choice.  You can either walk in righteousness (developing godliness) and enjoy the protection the Father wants you to enjoy, or you can walk in sin and expose yourself to the dangers of walking without God’s protection.

Confession for Today:  Father, I thank You for setting before me life and death, blessing and cursing, and then telling me which to choose.  I choose life and blessing.  I choose to develop in godliness.  I choose to walk in righteousness.  And as I do, I enjoy the protection that comes from my own integrity and Your divine power.  Angels, walk with me today.  Keep me from harm.  Protect me and my family as we seek to do all that the Father would have us to do.  Thank You Father for your protection, power and peace!  In Jesus’ name.  Amen!

This is Today’s Word!  Apply it and Prosper!

(13:7) Being honest with God and others about your Financial State

(Prov 13:7 NIrV) Some people pretend to be rich but have nothing.  Others pretend to be poor but have great wealth.

First of all, I made it safely to the US and all is well.  My conference starts today and I have been enjoying quality time with my family.  Thank you for your prayers.

This morning we continue our series, “Unlocking the Power of Proverbs – Walking in the Wisdom of God.”  In this verse Solomon gives us two extremes.  On the one hand, there are those who are poor, but pretend to be rich.  They attempt to live extravagantly, spending more than the make, and giving others the impression that they are well off.  The problem is that they are not.  They are in above their heads and their desire to impress others keeps them in the hole of debt and despair.  They display one thing in public, but when they are alone the reality of their situation sinks in and it leaves them wanting help, but not wanting to be exposed to get it.  This is a terrible situation, but it is unfortunately one that is common in the United States.  Even in the midst of an economic downturn, there are many that continue to spend more than they make just to maintain a public image that is nothing but a lie.

On the other hand, you have those that are well off; who through hard work and God’s favor have become very wealthy.  Instead of using their riches to be a blessing, they hoard them and even worse, they put up a façade of poverty.  They would rather maintain an image of poverty, than to allow others to know that they are wealthy.  With wealth comes responsibility.  The more you have, the more you can be a blessing to others with.  God promised to bless Abraham and his descendants (Gen 12:1,2), so that we could BE a blessing to others.  It is a terrible thing to have the means by which to be a blessing, but to choose rather to display an image of poverty, so that no one would expect you to make a difference (financially) in the lives of others.

I meet people from time to time that tell me, “Rick, I don’t want much.  I just want enough for me and my family.”  While that statement might sound religious, it is not Godly.  That statement exposes a level of selfishness.  If all you are concerned about is you and yours, then you don’t understand your God.  Your God wants to bless you to make a difference within your sphere of influence.  This ability to make a difference is definitely NOT limited to money, but it sure does not exclude it either.  Solomon was extremely rich and he knew first-hand the responsibilities, before God, that riches bring with them.  When you get a chance, read Deuteronomy chapters 10 and 26.  There are other passages, but these speak of the responsibilities the Jews had to take care of the widows, orphans and foreigners (or strangers) at the gate.  Those whom the Father had blessed with much had a Godly responsibility to ensure that those who were less fortunate were taken care of.  There was no welfare system, no government assistance programs, just the Kingdom of God making a difference in the lives of others.

So what does this mean to you today? Let’s look at both categories:

1.  To the less fortunate:  If you fall into the first category and you are struggling financially right now, then you must heed Solomon’s warning and live within your means.  Don’t concern yourself with putting up a façade for others.  Just seek to please God by working hard, keeping Him first, and seeking His wisdom to get you out of your financial situation.  With hard work and God’s favor you will eventually see a turn-around.

2.  To the well off:  If you are blessed to have more than enough for you and yours, then praise God!  Seek to be a blessing to those who are less fortunate.  It is ungodly to display an image of poverty when you know you are not poor.  That doesn’t mean that you have to flaunt it, but what it does mean is that the Father does not want you to shun your financial responsibility to make a difference in the lives of others.  You are blessed TO BE a blessing!

Confession for Today:  Father, I than You for giving me the wisdom to govern my finances responsibly.  I know you want to make a difference in the lives of others.  I also know that You will not rain down money from heaven.  When You want to bless someone in the earth, You always use another human to be the channel through which the blessing comes.  I declare, by faith, that I will walk in Your wisdom, I will manage my finances in a Godly way, and I will be the channel through which You can bless others!  In Jesus’ name.  Amen!

This is Today’s Word!  Apply it and Prosper!

(13:8) Are you Worth Attacking?

(Prov 13:8 AMP) A rich man can buy his way out of threatened death by paying a ransom, but the poor man does not even have to listen to threats [from the envious].

This morning we continue our series, “Unlocking the Power of Proverbs – Walking in the Wisdom of God.”  In the last verse Solomon urged us to be honest about our financial state.  He made it clear that a wealthy person should not attempt to display an image of poverty, just to avoid the responsibilities God places upon the wealthy.  But what he says here is quite interesting.  Solomon – who was extremely rich – explains that the wealthy have to deal with things that the poor do not.  For example, the wealthy have to deal with the threat of someone within his or her family being kidnapped for ransom.  In Solomon’s day, and even today, the threat of kidnapping is a real.  Watch the news and you will see that in Mexico and in many Central American countries the threat of kidnapping, for ransom, is real and common.  But Solomon’s point is that the kidnapper will normally do their homework.  They won’t normally spend the time, energy or effort to kidnap someone who does not have anyone wealthy enough to pay a ransom.  What is the point of committing the act if there is not going to be a payday?  The perpetrators of this type of crime only pursue targets worthy of a big payoff.  Now, you may be thinking, “What does this have to do with me?”  Hold on, I will get there.

To draw the gap between Solomon’s words and your world let me share with you a little story from my childhood.  I grew up Brooklyn and in the 1970s my neighborhood was full of gangs.  But by the mid-1980s we were basically down two: the Senior Crash Crew (SCC) and the Junior Crash Crew (JCC).  The SCC would get out of high school at 2:20pm and then walk several blocks to the junior high school to pick up the JCC.  Both crews would then merge and create a huge mob (about 200/300 strong).  The mob would then walk back to their housing projects.  They walked through the streets robbing and beating up anyone crazy enough to go close to the crowd.  However, one day I saw a man walk directly through the entire crowd untouched.  Not one of the members of the JCC or the SCC bothered him.  How did he do that?  Why did the crowd leave him alone?  Why didn’t anyone from the mob attack him?  Because he was a drug addict.  Excuse the term, but he was what we called a “crackhead.”  Many years later God reminded me of that incident and told me that the reason they did not touch him was because they perceived that he did not have anything worth taking.  The mob was smart enough to only attack those worth attacking.

So what does this mean to you today? A couple of things:

1.  Satan is after your worth:  Whatever God has placed down inside of you is valuable to God’s Kingdom.  If the enemy can get frustrate you enough that you will stop believing God for all the things You believe He wants to do in your life, then he can hold your life, your dream, your destiny, and your purpose ransom!  If he can get you to throw in the towel, you basically defeat yourself.  That’s what he wants you to do, but you must refuse to give up on your purpose and destiny, no matter how hard it gets.

2.  You will only be attacked if you have something worth attacking:  If the enemy is coming against you, it is evidence that he perceives you have something worth taking.  The greater the dream (the value) God has placed down inside of you, the greater the attack.  Don’t allow the enemy’s attacks to cause you to quit.  Remember, his poison can’t stop your purpose.  The only way you can lose is if you quit!  Feed your faith, starve your doubts, and you will be able to overcome every attack!

Confession for Today:  Father, I thank You for making me a valuable asset in and for Your Kingdom.  I have God-given purpose down inside of me and no one – neither satan himself or any demonic force – can stop it.  When I am attacked it adds fuel to my fire, because I know that I am worth attacking.  Instead of getting frustrated and throwing in the towel, every attack of the enemy helps me to steel my resolve even greater.  No matter what comes my way I will never give up.  No weapon formed against me shall prosper.  I persevere with a ‘Forward-ever, Backward-never’ mentality and I maintain joy and peace while I do.  In Jesus’ name.  Amen!

(13:9) A Life Full of Light and Joy!

(Prov 13:9 AMP) The life of the godly is full of light and joy, but the light of the wicked will be snuffed out.

This morning we continue our series, “Unlocking the Power of Proverbs – Walking in the Wisdom of God.”  In this verse Solomon contrasts the light and joy that characterize the life of the believer, with the darkness that characterizes the life of the unbeliever.  This reminds me of the series that I did entitled, “Joy and Peace In Believing.”  That series was founded upon Romans 15:13, where Paul said, “Now may the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that you will abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.”  This was part of Paul’s closing prayer for the believers in Rome.  He prayed that they would be filled with all joy and peace, while they believed God and journeyed through life, and that their joy and peace would come from the overflowing power of the Holy Spirit Himself!  This is powerful stuff.  As believers, we are called to be light and love, not darkness and hatred.  When people see us they should see God’s joy permeating through us, they should see and excitement for life emanating from our pores.  After speaking to us they should know that they have come in contact with a human that is full of God Himself!

In Nehemiah chapter 8 the people gathered together to hear the Word of God.  Ezra the priest (and scribe) stood above the people, behind a pulpit, and read the Word of God to them.  Not only that, he broke the Word down so that they could understand it (that’s what I attempt to do).  Afterwards Nehemiah, the Governor, stood before the people and said, “Go and enjoy choice food and sweet drinks, and send some to those who have nothing prepared.  This day is sacred to our Lord.  Do not grieve, for the joy of the LORD is your strength” (8:10).  That says it all.  As believers, the joy of the Lord should be our strength.  We should be so full of God’s Spirit that His joy becomes and internal and everlasting well that feeds our soul.

I am currently in the U.S. for a conference.  This is an annual conference where many of the professionals from my field come together to share ideas, provide updates on projects, and etc.  One of the major draws of a conference like this is the social networking aspect of it.  As I walked through the conference yesterday, shaking hands, catching up with old friends, and etc., I thought about a book I am currently reading.  I have actually been meaning to read this book for a while.  It is Dale Carnegie’s “How to Win Friends and Influence People.”  It was first published in 1936 and it has sold 15 million copies globally.  Let me share an observation from the book I found interesting:  “Dealing with people is probably the biggest problem you face, especially if you are a business man.  Yes, and that is also true if you are a housewife, architect, or engineer.  Research made a few years ago under the auspices of the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teachers uncovered a most important significant fact; a fact later confirmed by additional studies made at the Carnegie Institute of Technology.  These investigations revealed that even in such technical lines as engineering, about 15% of one’s financial success is due to one’s technical knowledge and about 85% is due to skill in human engineering, to personality, and to the ability to lead people.”

So what does this mean to you today? Two things: 1) It means that as a believer, you should be full and continually filled with God’s joy, life and energy.  This will draw people and provide an opportunity for you to share God’s goodness with them.  2) It means that if you become the light that God desires for you to be, you will be more successful in life.  You don’t want to be the dark, drab, and dismal person that no one wants to speak to (and there are quite a few of these at this conference), these people don’t go far in God or in their profession.

Confession for Today:  Father, I thank You for Your Joy and Peace.  I enter this day with the excitement that comes from Your Joy and the serenity that comes from Your peace.  The Joy of the Lord is my strength; therefore, I am ready for this day.  I face this day – and every challenge it may bring – with a smile on my face, a song in my heart, a spring in my step and a zest for life that cannot be interrupted!  In Jesus’ name.  Amen!

(13:10) Advice for Leaders

(Prov 13:10 NIrV) Pride only leads to arguing.  But those who take advice are wise.

This morning we continue our series, “Unlocking the Power of Proverbs – Walking in the Wisdom of God.”  Solomon was the wisest man to ever live (outside of Jesus).  Under his tenure (as King) Israel built the greatest temple ever built.  The project took over seven years to complete and Solomon entered into partnerships with other Kings and nations to outsource what his nation did not specialize in.  All in all, the project required over 200,000 workers and the budget was over a Billion dollars.  I share this with you because I want you to understand a little about the man who is writing here.  Although God had given him remarkable wisdom, he knew that he could not accomplish everything alone.  He surrounded himself with wise people, welcomed and heeded their counsel, decentralized control of aspects of the project, and accomplished what God desired for him to do.  In the 20th verse of this same chapter Solomon said, “Walk with the wise and become wise; associate with fools and get in trouble.”  In other words, wisdom and foolishness are both transferred by association.  If you want to grow wiser, you must surround yourself with wise people and then open yourself up to learn from them.

In Exodus 18 Moses had a problem.  He was the leader or Israel, but he was attempting to address all the issues that arose by himself.  His father-in-law (Jethro) told him, “What you are doing is not good.  You and these people who come to you will only wear yourselves out.  The work is too heavy for you; you cannot handle it alone.  Listen now to me and I will give you some advice, and may God be with you… select capable men from all the people—men who fear God, trustworthy men who hate dishonest gain—and appoint them as officials over thousands, hundreds, fifties and tens.  Have them serve as judges for the people at all times, but have them bring every difficult case to you; the simple cases they can decide themselves.  That will make your load lighter, because they will share it with you. If you do this and God so commands, you will be able to stand the strain, and all these people will go home satisfied.”  Moses did just that, his load became lighter, and he and the nation prospered because of it.

Our verse for this morning teaches us that it takes humility to accept advice and assistance from others.  The Message Bible version of this verse reads, “Arrogant know-it-alls stir up discord, but wise men and women listen to each other’s counsel.”  Prideful leaders don’t empower their subordinates and the result is a climate of micromanagement, frustration, and inefficiency.  Solomon could have made all the decisions himself, Moses could have ignored his father-in-law, but in both cases neither man would have been the better for it and the nations they led would have suffered.

In the conference I am in we have heard from two Four Star Generals thus far and we will hear from another today and every time I get to hear a senior leader speak they openly remind the audience how fortunate they feel to be where they are, how humbled they are by the experience, and how they must surround themselves with very capable (and in many cases smarter) individuals to be able to accomplish was is asked of them.

So what does this mean to you today? Three quick things:

1.  You don’t know it all.  Don’t allow pride you make you think you do.

2.  You can’t do it all.  You will burn yourself out and then you won’t be any good to anyone.

3.  You can’t make every decision.  You must surround yourself with wise people and then trust and empower them to perform your intent.

Confession for Today:  Father, I refuse to allow pride to keep me enslaved to self-promotion.  I know I don’t know it all, so I thank You for blessing me with people around me who are well able to perform what I can’t.  I will not micromanage my organization, my family, or anyone You bless me to lead.  I will develop and empower those that I lead, so that they can become tomorrow’s leaders and so that I can be free to accomplish all that You desire for me to do before I die!  I declare this by faith!  In Jesus’ name.  Amen!

(13:11) Honest vs. Dishonest Wealth

(Prov 13:11 NIV) Dishonest money dwindles away, but he who gathers money little by little makes it grow.

This morning we continue our series, “Unlocking the Power of Proverbs – Walking in the Wisdom of God.”  In this verse Solomon differentiates between the wealth attained by honest means and hard work, from the wealth attained dishonestly.  Growing up in Brooklyn I knew quite a few individuals who attained wealth dishonestly and illegally.  I knew one person, who sold drugs for years, who routinely earned $50,000 a week.  Solomon’s words are a perfect description of his life.  Although he made absorbent amounts of money, it seemed like he never had any.  He was a compulsive gambler who thought nothing of placing a $20,000 or $30,000 wager on a baseball game, or at the poker table, or on illegal lottery, or etc.  Week after week, no matter how much he made, he seemed to find creative ways to spend it all.  Now, many years later, he has nothing.  He was a married man with four children, but his marriage did not survive his roller-coaster lifestyle.  He has no money, no family, and seemingly no future.  Theologian Matthew Henry, when commenting on this verse said, “This shows that riches wear as they are won and woven.  That which is won ill will never wear well, for a curse attends it which will waste it, and the same corrupt dispositions which incline men to the sinful ways of getting well incline them to the like sinful ways of spending.”

I am currently in Florida and while here a met a man who seems to have attained his wealth dishonestly.  Soon after meeting him he began to tell me how much money he once had.  And after describing the small fortune he once enjoyed, he began to describe the series of calamities he experienced as he seemingly lost it all.  This reminds me of the words of Jeremiah, where he said: “The person who gets money dishonestly is like a bird that hatches eggs it didn’t lay. In the prime of life he will lose his riches, and in the end he is nothing but a fool” (17:11).  My mother is visiting here with me and as we discussed this man’s situation I could not help but remember the countless times my mother told me (growing up), “Son, I would rather we eat dirt as a family, than for you to bring one dollar of illegal money into this house.”  Her words rang through my soul every time one of my childhood friends, that had taken the illegal route, offered me a job in doing the same.

The Hebrew word for bless is barak (baw-rak).  The Hebrew word for create is bara (baw-raw).  I heard a preacher once say that God only baras what He baraks; meaning, God only blesses what He creates.  The Father will only back, protect, and bless the things He leads you to do.  When you get out there on your own, in the realm of the dishonest and the illegal, then you are exactly that, on your own.  Where He leads, He feeds.  Where He guides, He provides.  But when you are not walking with Him, you have to face all that comes – whether it be the temptation to do wrong, or calamity – on your own.

So what does this mean to you today? It means God is interested in every area of your life.  He is concerned with your relationships, health, development as a person, progress towards arriving at your destiny, and your money.  He is not against you getting ahead.  As a matter of fact, He wants you to get ahead.  He wants to bless the work of your hands.  Some of the greatest characters of the Bible were extremely wealthy.  A poverty-stricken believer will have a hard time focusing on meeting the needs of others.  So no, the Father is not against wealth, but He is completely against seeking wealth the wrong way.

Confession for Today:  Father, I want You to bless the work of my hands.  I want Your blessing upon me as I enter this day and every day.  Therefore, I declare, by faith, that I will seek to do things in a way that is pleasing in your sight.  I resist every temptation and invitation to do things illegally, immorally, and dishonestly.  I walk upright before you and I trust that I will be the better for it.  I know that I can get ahead financially, and in every other area of my life, by doing things Your way.  As I seek to do things right today, I ask You to walk with me and to barak all that I do!  In Jesus’ name.  Amen!

(13:12) Hope that Does Not Disappoint!

(Prov 13:12 NIrV) Hope that is put off makes one sick at heart.  But a longing that is met is like a tree of life.

First of all, I want you to know that over the next couple of days I will be traveling back to the Middle East and I may not be able to send out Today’s Word.  If you do not receive it, you know why.  There are three of us on our trip.  Please pray with me that God be glorified in our travels.

This morning we continue our series, “Unlocking the Power of Proverbs – Walking in the Wisdom of God.”  In this verse Solomon tells us that hope that is put off (other translations say “deferred”) makes one heartsick.  In other words, there is a deep disappointment that can be birthed – from the inside out – in a person that has been waiting for something for a long time, to no avail.  Some have been so disappointed, so often, that that have become disillusioned.  But the Good News is that there is a Hope that does not disappoint and that is the Hope that is birthed in our heart by God.

A few messages ago I mentioned Romans 15:13, where Paul said, “Now may the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that you will abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.”  Not only does Paul call God the “God of Hope,” but his prayer for the believers at Rome was that they would literally abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.  This is supernatural hope and his prayer for them came after much teaching on this Godly hope.  In the first chapter Paul lets the believers in Rome know that he dearly wanted to visit them, but he was unable to, so he sent this letter to teach them (Jews and Gentiles alike) about salvation, faith, redemption, justification, righteousness, and hope.  In the fourth chapter Paul taught them (and us) about the unwavering faith of Abraham – a man that stood on a promise of God for 25 years.  Paul explains that Abraham hoped against hope; meaning that he maintained his Godly hope, even when all human hope was gone.  Humanly speaking, Abraham and Sarah should have given up their hope to have a child.  Abraham was 99 years old and Sarah was 90 when God told them that they were still going to have the baby.  Sarah had been barren all her life and Abraham’s body was also – by this point in their lives – humanly dead.  But they maintained their hope and they continued to believe in a God that could turn hopeless situations around.  And do you know what happened?  They had that baby, even after all human hope had dissipated.

This is the backdrop for this fifth chapter.  Paul opens: “Therefore,” this is a connection back to chapter four and the faith of Abraham, “Since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand.”  This is the peace that Abraham had while he was waiting on God, a peace that enables us to keep hope alive.  Paul continues, “And we rejoice in the hope of the glory of God.”  This is not human hope.  This is not limited hope.  This is a hope that is birthed by God Himself in us. Paul continues, “Not only so, but we also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope.”  Paul had been through many challenges himself and he explains that challenges should not cause believers to give up and throw away our hope, but rather the opposite is true.  As believers, the challenges we face can actually help to develop perseverance, character and hope!  And then the fifth verse is the big one.  Paul said, “Now this hope does not disappoint us, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us.”  We can be assured that we will not be disappointed when we walk with God, because we know that He loves us.

So what does this mean to you today? Rev. R.G. Lee, President of the Southern Baptist Convention in the early 1900s, preached a famous sermon entitled, “Payday Someday.”  Solomon tells us that when our longing is met, when we receive our payday, the experience is like a tree of life.  As a believer, rooted and grounded in the love of God, you know that your payday is coming.  Your hope, in God, is worth having and you will not be disappointed!

Confession for Today:  Father, my hope is not based upon the economy, the dollar, or anything else in the world.  My hope is based upon my relationship with You and I now that this is a hope that never fails and never disappoints.  I, like Abraham, build up the ability to hope against hope.  You are my God of Hope and I know that the manifestation of Your promises in my life is just a matter of time.  I remain steadfast, unmovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, while I wait on You!  And I wait with a smile on my face and a song in my heart!  In Jesus’ name.  Amen!

This is Today’s Word!  Apply it and Prosper!

(13:13) The Bible

(Prov 13:13 CEV) If you reject God’s teaching, you will pay the price; if you obey his commands, you will be rewarded.

First of all I want to let you know that I am back in Iraq.  It took a while, but Praise God we made it.  Thank you for your prayers.

This morning we continue our series, “Unlocking the Power of Proverbs – Walking in the Wisdom of God.”  In this verse Solomon reminds us of the benefits of receiving and applying God’s truth, of allowing God’s Word to be the ruler by which we judge every decision.  With this in mind, let me share a few thoughts with you about the awesomeness of God’s Word.

The Bible is the #1 All-time bestseller.  More people have read it than any other book in history.  It is a compilation of 66 books, written by about 40 authors, in different times (over a span of 1,500 years), and for different reasons, but it all comes together as one work.  Why?  Because the people penned the scriptures, but they were not the authors.  They wrote the letters, but they did not manufacture the Words.  They were the tools, but the Holy Spirit was the mastermind.  That’s why we the Bible is God’s sacred book for our lives that we are to read, study, obey, and preach.  There will be no 67th book.  While everything is not in the Bible – the Bible does not tell us how to change a tire or fix a computer – everything we need to live a victorious life on the earth is contained within its pages.

In April 1521, Martin Luther appeared before a council of his accusers at the Diet of Worms.  They wanted him to repudiate his unwavering faith in the sufficiency of the Word of God.  He was being persecuted for placing more authority in the scriptures than the leadership of the Church at the time.  This was his response, “Unless I am convicted by Scripture and plain reason—I do not accept the authority of popes and councils, for they have contradicted each other—my conscience is captive to the Word of God… God help me!  Here I stand.”  Like Martin Luther, we must have a steadfast belief in the infallible, inerrant, and inexhaustible Word of God.  If there is ever a conflict between the Bible and man’s teachings the answer is clear: the Bible is Right!

Smith Wigglesworth said: “The Bible is the Word of God: Supernatural in origin, eternal in duration, inexpressible in valor, infinite in scope, regenerative in power, infallible in authority, universal in interest, personal in application, and inspired in totality.  Read it through, write it down, pray it in, work it out, and then pass it on.”

John MacArthur said: “This book contains: the mind of God, the state of man, the way of salvation, the doom of sinners, and the happiness of believers.  Its doctrine is holy, its precepts are binding, its histories are true, and its decisions are immutable.  Read it to be wise, believe it to be saved, and practice it to be holy.  It contains light to direct you, food to support you, and comfort to cheer you.  It is the traveler’s map, the pilgrim’s staff, the pilot’s compass, the soldier’s sword, and the Christian’s charter.  Here heaven is open, and the gates of hell are disclosed. Christ is the grand subject, our good its design, and the glory of God its end.  It should fill the memory, rule the heart, and guide the feet.  Read it slowly, frequently, and prayerfully.  It is a mine of wealth, health to the soul, and a river of pleasure.  It is given to you here in this life, will be opened at the judgment, and is established forever.  It involves the highest responsibility, will reward the greatest labor, and condemn all who trifle with its contents.”

So what does this mean to you today? To answer this question I simply go back to Solomon’s words.  The Bible is God’s Word for you and if reject it you will pay the price, but if you obey and apply its teachings to your life you will be rewarded!

Confession for Today:  Father, I thank You for making Your Word available to me.  I have access to Your truth and I know that it is the truth that I need to maximize my purpose and potential in life.  I declare, by faith, that I will allow Your Word to be the ruler by which I judge every decision.  I read it, believe it, apply it, speak it, am transformed by it, and share it with all those I come in contact with.  I know Your Word is not merely a textbook to study, but rather a Life-Book to live and I declare that I will live my life in accordance with it all the days of my life!  In Jesus’ name.  Amen!

This is Today’s Word!  Apply it and Prosper!

My Spiritual Birthday

(2nd Cor 5:17 NIV Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!

This morning I take a pause from the current series to share part of my personal story.  Yesterday (August 27, 2009) was my Spiritual birthday.  Let me explain.  I was born to Dominican parents in Brooklyn, NY in 1972.  I was the first of my family born in the U.S., so I did not have any older siblings of family members to show me the ropes in this new country.  Growing up in Brooklyn was an “experience” to say the least; being quite a diverse cultural and religious environment.  I attended Catholic Mass regularly, but I never experienced a true encounter with God.  I was baptized, confirmed, and I confessed my sins to my priest on a regular basis, but once again, I knew something was missing.  I enlisted the Army shortly after graduating from high school.  My military duties took me several places and I was still seeking a true and intimate relationship with God.  While in North Carolina I attended Berean Baptist Church.  At the end of the service the Pastor said, “If you don’t know Jesus in the pardon of your sins, raise your hand.”  I raised my hand and I was asked to go into a side room where someone would pray with me.  The person with me asked me to repeat a prayer.  I did, but nothing happened.  I know now that my heart was not in it.  Shortly thereafter I was assigned to Kuwait and I was still seeking God.

In Kuwait I met a man named Leo Jacobs.  He was a SSG in my platoon.  I too was a SSG, but there was something clearly different about him.  He carried himself well, he was highly respected, well spoken, and I saw things in him worth emulating.  After talking to him for a while he made it clear that Christ was the head of his life and that he attributed his success to his relationship with God.  I admired his confidence and I accepted his invitation to attend his church.  So, on August 27, 1995 I walked into the chapel on Camp Doha, Kuwait as a 23 year-old hard-charging, arrogant and egotistical overachiever and I walked out a Born-Again believer.  That’s the short version.  The longer version is that I entered the chapel and attended Sunday School.  After an hour of Sunday School I was ready to leave and was very surprised to learn that the service was just about to begin.  I had never been in church for hours, so this was going to be a new thing for me.  But, true to my word, I stayed.  As the service began I saw something in the people that I did not have.  It was the same thing Leo Jacobs had; and that was a sincere relationship with God.  Whatever they had, it was true to them.  They sang with passion, prayed earnestly, and cried out before their God.  I knew that I wanted what they had.  At the end of the service, Pastor B.W. Burnett gave the petition to come forward, but this time I refused.  I kneeled down where I was and said to God, “Lord, I don’t know what this ‘saved’ thing is that these people keep talking about, but I know that I want it.  Please give it to me now.”  And just like that, I was Born-Again.  I knew that I was different and my life has never been the same.

One of my former Pastors, Dr. S.L. Moton, was asked, “How long does it take to become a Christian?”  His answer: “A moment, and a lifetime.”  I became a Christian that moment and I have been becoming the person that God desires for me to be over the last 14 years.  I was a new man, in an old body, who needed a new mind.  Conversion was instantaneous; transformation has been a process.

So what does this mean to you today? It means: 1) You too have a story to tell and never be afraid or ashamed to tell it, 2) After receiving your conversion experience, you must submit yourself to the process of transformation, and 3) Celebrate your new life in Christ – it is definitely something worth celebrating!

Confession for Today:  Father, I thank You for sending Your Son to die in my stead.  He paid a price I could not pay for a debt He did not owe.  He died so that I could live.  I have accepted Jesus as my Lord and I have been converted.  I now submit myself to the process of transformational growth that comes as I renew my mind (my thinker), my emotions (my feeler), and my will (my chooser) to line up with You and Your Word.  In Jesus’ name.  Amen!

(13:14) Learning from One Another

(Prov 13:14 NIrV) The teaching of wise people is like a fountain that gives life.  It turns those who listen to it away from the jaws of death.

This morning we continue our series, “Unlocking the Power of Proverbs – Walking in the Wisdom of God.”  In this verse Solomon reminds us that we need the teaching of the wise.  We must all learn from those that have gone before us.  Ken Blanchard said, “None of us is as smart as ALL of us!”  The point is that we need each other.  It takes humility to acknowledge the fact that we can’t do it all by ourselves.  Even when it comes to our life’s purpose, God places people in our path that He expects us to learn from.  If we allow ego or naïveté to fool us into thinking that we don’t need others, we will never arrive at God’s desired destination for our lives.

What Solomon is teaching is congruent with all of scripture.  If you read the Bible it won’t take you long to come across verses like, “Two people are better off than one, for they can help each other succeed” (Ecc 4:9), that help drive home the fact that we need others to maximize our purpose and potential.

The term “each other” appears 109 times in the Bible in verse like: “Keep on loving each other as brothers” (Heb 13:1) and “Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed.  The prayer of a righteous man is powerful and effective” (James 5:16).  The term “one another” appears 75 times in the Bible in verse like: “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another” (John 13:34), “Be devoted to one another in brotherly love.  Honor one another above yourselves” (Romans 12:10).

John Maxwell, in his book, “17 Indisputable Laws of Teamwork” said, “One is too small a number to achieve greatness.”  He calls this “The Law of Significance.”  His point being that nothing truly significant can be achieved by just one person.  Even when one person makes it to the top of Mount Everest, they did not make it there without a team of people behind them.  So if you are going to become all that God desires for you to be, it will require the wisdom and support of others.  However, you must be careful to only learn from those that are walking in Godly wisdom.  While Solomon teaches us here that the teaching of the wise gives life and keeps us from the jaws of death, the teaching of fools could actually lead us to destruction.  In the 20th verse of this same chapter Solomon said, “Anyone who walks with wise people grows wise.  But a companion of foolish people suffers harm.”

So what does this mean to you today? A few things:

1.  You need others:  Never allow pride to fool you into thinking that you can do it all by yourself.

2.  You must be selective when choosing friends and mentors:  Both wisdom and foolishness can be transferred by association.  Choose the wrong people and you will eventually head down the wrong road.

3.  Seek to give back:  One of the greatest benefits of being mentored is so that you can develop into a mentor yourself.  If you continually learn from the wise, eventually you will become wise.  Once you do, God will setup divine appointments for you to pour into others, the things that others have poured into you.  The student honors his teacher when he becomes a teacher himself.

Confession for Today:  Father, I know that I don’t know it all and I appreciate all the wise men and women You have placed in my path.  I declare, by faith, that I will maximize my purpose and potential by learning from all those You desire for me to learn from.  I submit to wise counsel and I become wise myself.  Once I do, I will honor the investment You and others have made in my life by seeking to pour into others the goodness that has been poured into me.  Thank You Father for teaching me to remain humble, teachable, and always willing to BE a blessing to others.  In Jesus’ name.  Amen!

(13:15) Two Ways

(Prov 13:15 NIV) Good understanding wins favor, but the way of the unfaithful is hard.

This morning we continue our series, “Unlocking the Power of Proverbs – Walking in the Wisdom of God.”  In this verse Solomon contrasts two ways (or paths).  Let’s take a closer look at each.  I chose the New International Version for our focus text.  It calls the first way the way of “Good understanding,” which is able to gain us favor; and the second, “The way of the unfaithful,” which is simply hard.  The Message Bible calls the first way: the way of sound thinking, that makes for gracious living; while the second is: the way of liars, which leads you down a rough road.  The New Living Translation says that the first way is for people with good sense and it leads to respect, while the second way is reserved for treacherous people and it leads them to destruction.

If that were not clear enough, I looked at this verse in the original Hebrew and looked up the definitions of the words used.  The word used to describe the first way is also translated: wisdom, intelligence, knowledge, discretion, prudence, sense, and understanding.  The word used to describe the benefits of walking in this way is also translated: grace, pleasant, precious, and well favored.  The word used to describe the second way is also translated: deceitful, transgressor, offender, and treacherous.  And the word used to describe the results of walking in this way is also translated: rough, strong, and difficult.

By this point you may be thinking?  “Rick, why are you telling me all of this?  Why are you looking at so much background on this on verse?”  Well, for two reasons: 1) because I want to be accurate, and 2) because I want to be clear.  When you look at what God (through Solomon) has said to us here, the message becomes vividly clear that there are two options in life.  You can either walk with God or without Him.  You can either choose to accept Jesus as your Lord or you can reject Him.  There are really no other choices and you will reap either the reward or the peril of whatever you choose.  The first way, the path that includes God, is a way full of His wisdom, revelation, understanding, and insight; and this way is wonderful.  It leads to a blessed life.  God does not only want you to make it to heaven, but He wants you to enjoy the ride.  When you walk in His wisdom you open yourself up to His benefits.  But the second way is also available and many choose to walk down it.  This path excludes God and it is a path that is hard, difficult, and extremely challenging.

So what does this mean to you today? It means you must make your choice.  You can either choose the path that includes God or the one that excludes Him.  Both paths include challenges.  I would love to tell you that the path with God is free from obstacles, but I would be lying.  The difference, however, is that when you face those challenges WITH God, WITH His insight, wisdom, revelation and understanding, you are able to come out on top every time!  On the path without God you face challenges as well, but you don’t have the benefit of His grace.  So choose God today.  I mean really choose Him.  Choose to face every day with His Spirit as your guide, His Word as your foundation, and His wisdom as the ruler by which you judge every decision.  If you do that you will experience the grace and favor God and you will enjoy every day of your life, as you make your journey from earth to glory, from labor to reward, from time to eternity!

Confession for Today:  Father, thank You for making both paths vividly clear through Your Word.  There is no mistake about it, I have two paths available to me, but I declare, right now, that I make my choice.  I choose life and blessing, not death and cursing.  I choose Your path Father.  I enter every day with the blessed benefits of Your wisdom, insight, revelation and understanding.  I am led by Your Spirit and governed by Your Word.  I have accepted Jesus as my Lord.  I am on my way to heaven and I am determined to enjoy the ride.  No matter what I face, I know that I do not face it alone.  I face every challenge head-on, by faith, and with the confidence to know that I will come out on top!  In Jesus’ name.  Amen!

(13:16) Slow Down Long Enough to Think

(Prov 13:16 NLT) Wise people think before they act; fools don’t—and even brag about their foolishness.

This morning we continue our series, “Unlocking the Power of Proverbs – Walking in the Wisdom of God.”  In this verse Solomon contrasts the wisdom of taking the time to think before you act and the foolishness that is often the result of haste.  This is a tough one for our modern society.  Humans today don’t like waiting for anything or slowing down at all.  We get up early, go to sleep late, and try to accomplish way too much in between.  Most of us have “To Do” lists with no end in sight and our calendars are full of meetings, phone conferences, decisions that have to be made, actions that have to be done, places we need to go, and people we need to see.  Further, our desks and inboxes are full of things we need to read and when we look at it all, in addition to making sure we have time for our faith, family, and fitness, it can all seem overwhelming; which is why most Americans are always hustling and bustling.  This ‘need for speed’ lends itself to a microwave society and a microwave mentality.  Everything has to be done fast, so we often sacrifice quality for quickness.

Solomon ran a successful nation with a surplus economy.  He knew a thing or two about getting things done and his wisdom to us is to slow down long enough to think before we speak or act.  He makes it clear that fools don’t and while none of us want to be a fool, if we would be honest, we sometimes act like fools when we don’t give issues the proper time they need.

It’s my observation that most people today are not thinkers.  Many don’t even like to think.  They are so accustomed to rushing through their day that they don’t give any one thing the courtesy of careful thought.  Let me give you an example.  Here in Iraq we have some major challenges we have to think through where I work.  To address the issues we routinely pull a group of people together, we sit by a whiteboard, and we think through the challenges; which often requires brainstorming, freethinking, and the occasional off-the-wall idea.  But sometimes, while we are holding these sessions, someone comes by, sees what we are doing, and then says something like, “You guys just think too much for me.”  That’s sad.  God has blessed us with mental ability, but most of us don’t take the time to use it.  We are so driven to get things done that we don’t realize that we can actually get more done, in a more quality fashion, if we slowed down long enough to think.

Matthew Henry, when commenting on this verse, said: “It is wisdom to be cautious.  Every prudent discreet man does all with knowledge (considering with himself and consulting with others)… careful not to meddle with that which he has not some knowledge of, not to launch out into business which he has not acquainted himself with, will not deal with those that he has not some knowledge of, whether they may be confided in.  He is still dealing in knowledge, that he may increase the stock he has.  It is folly to be rash, as the fool is, who is forward to talk of things he knows nothing of and undertake that which he is no way fit for, and so lays open his folly and makes himself ridiculous.”

So what does this mean to you today? It simply means that you should slow down long enough to think things through.  I am not saying that you should not act, just that you should not act without careful thought.  Once you have the knowledge you should act with fearless confidence.  Andrew Jackson said, “Take time to be deliberate; but when the time for action arrives, stop thinking and go in.”

Confession for Today:  Father, thank You for blessing me with a brain.  I declare, right now, by faith, that I have the mental ability to think through all the challenges I will face today.  I operate with both education and revelation.  I use my mind and I am led of Your Spirit.  Together, I am more than equipped to be successful in every area of my life.  As I enter this day I declare that my mind is alert and sharp, my body is awake and ready, and I can face this day with fearless confidence; knowing that by Your grace I will succeed!  In Jesus’ name.  Amen!

(13:17) Are you a Reliable Representative?

(Prov 13:17 GNB) Unreliable messengers cause trouble, but those who can be trusted bring peace.

This morning we continue our series, “Unlocking the Power of Proverbs – Walking in the Wisdom of God.”  In Solomon’s day, a king had to rely on messengers to get information out about his kingdom.  He did not have television, radio, the internet, a Facebook page, Twitter, or any of the modern media vehicles through which to share information.  Furthermore, he did not have a telephone or a video teleconference suite to be able speak directly with foreign heads of state.  I know this may seem archaic to us today, but Solomon actually had to use messengers to get his strategic message out and to serve as negotiators for his kingdom.  Obviously, the reliance upon these messengers made the selection of them vitally important.  They had to be absolutely trustworthy.  Inaccurate information could lead to bloodshed.  If a messenger allowed his emotions to get the best of him, while negotiating with a foreign head of state, the results could be disastrous for both nations.  Solomon needed to know that when he sent a messenger out with a message that the messenger would both reliably relay the message and responsibly represent the spirit in which it was sent.

The King James Version reads: “A wicked messenger falleth into mischief: but a faithful ambassador is health.”  The word ambassador is fitting here.  An ambassador is sent to represent his parent nation within a host nation.  The role of the ambassador is to establish relationships within the host nation, while maintaining his integrity and loyalty to his parent nation.  When communication is sent from the parent nation, the ambassador is to communicate that information, no matter how pleasant or objectionable it might be.  Additionally, the ambassador is to represent that information, as if it were his own, whether he agrees with it or not.  The ambassador cannot allow his personal opinion to disrupt or dilute the message of the parent nation.

So what does this mean to you today? Why is this important?  It is important because the same holds true for you.  You may not hold the title, “Ambassador,” but you may be asked to serve as representative regularly.  Both in the ministry and in the marketplace, having the ability to represent your leadership is sought-after quality.  Let’s talk marketplace first.  At work, leaders are always looking for reliable people they can trust to represent their organization in dealings with external organizations.  Leaders need to know that you will be faithful to relay the message you are asked to relay and to represent the character and spirit of your organization.  If you prove yourself trustworthy, you will be asked to do more and God will be able to use you in greater ways.  Remember, God did not save you from a burning hell just so you can sing songs on Sunday.  He wants you to grow where you have been planted – wherever that may be.  He wants to bless the work of your hands, so that you can move up and have greater influence.  The greater your influence, the more He can use you to do in the marketplace.  He called us to GO, not to WAIT.  Most Christians are waiting for unbelievers to come to church, but God sent us to GO, to infiltrate, to make a difference in the world, not just the church.  This leads me to the ministry side of it.  From a ministry perspective, you are actually called an “Ambassador for Christ” (2nd Cor 5:20).  The Father needs to know that you can be trusted to share the Good News of the gospel of Jesus Christ with the lost.  Once He knows that you can, He will setup divine appointments for you.  Are you ready and capable to represent God today?  Can He trust you to relay His message?  If so, get ready for some divine appointments!

Confession for Today:  Father, I declare, by faith, that I will represent both You and my secular leadership in a trustworthy fashion today and every day.  I prove myself to be reliable and responsible.  I share what I am expected to share and I refuse to allow my emotions or personal opinions to detract, dilute, or disrespect the spirit of the message I am asked to communicate.  I am not a messenger who causes trouble, I am an ambassador who brings and maintains peace.  I am a peacemaker and not a peace-breaker.  Use me Father for Your glory!  In Jesus’ name.  Amen!

The Importance of Prayer

(Mat 6:6 NLT) But when you pray, go away by yourself, shut the door behind you, and pray to your Father in private. Then your Father, who sees everything, will reward you.

I take a pause this Friday morning to share a quick not about the importance of prayer.  This has been heavy in my heart, because I am about to teach a series on prayer here in Iraq.  The series starts on Monday and I am not sure how long it will go, but of all the things I have taught over the years, I believe this will be the most important series the Lord has ever given me.  While prayer is quite possibly the most important activity a believer can do, it is also the something that mystifies and frustrates many believers.  While I am teaching this series on prayer, I may, from time to time, be led to interrupt this series from Proverbs to share a few nuggets with you from it.  If I do, pray you will be blessed by it.

For this morning I simply want to share a short poem I memorized many years ago, about prayer, that has been a reminder to me that I need to pray daily and continually.  The author is anonymous, but the message is powerful.  It’s called “The Difference.”

The Difference

I got up one morning,

And I rushed right into the day,

I had so much to accomplish,

That I did not have time to pray.

As the day went on,

Heavier came each task,

I said, “Lord, why don’t you help me?”

He said, “Child, you didn’t ask.”

Hour upon hour,

The day toiled on gray and bleak,

I said, “Lord, why don’t you help me?”

He said, “Son, you didn’t seek.”

Finally, I tried to come into God’s presence,

I used all my keys at the lock,

I said, “Lord, why don’t you let me in?’

He said, “Only because you didn’t knock.”

So I got up this morning,

And I paused before entering the day,

Because I had so much to accomplish,

That I HAD to take time to PRAY!

The Difference!

Instead of closing with a confession today, I ask you to simply take a few moments to pray.  Pray over your workplace, your schedule, all the things you need to do today, every divine appointment the Father wants for you, your family, and yourself.

This is Today’s Word!  Apply it and Prosper!

(13:18) Criticism and Correction

(Prov 13:18 NLT) If you ignore criticism, you will end in poverty and disgrace; if you accept correction, you will be honored.

This morning we continue our series, “Unlocking the Power of Proverbs – Walking in the Wisdom of God.”  We live in a society today that is straying away from standards.  Instead of calling right “right” and wrong “wrong,” there is a tendency to accept anything and everything.  This desire for acceptance may be dangerously driving us from the benefits of correction.  We all need correction and criticism if we are to develop into the men and women God desires for us to be.  Simply put, we cannot maximize our purpose and potential without the input of others.

I saw a report not too long ago that some communities have decided to stop keep score during T-Ball games for little boys, because they don’t want some of the kids to be the “losers.”  Instead of having winners and losers, they just want everyone to enjoy the fact that they participated.  I believe this mentality is being instituted by adults who don’t like to be compared or corrected.  I often hear people at work say, “We need to treat everyone the same,” or “You can’t show any favoritism.”  There is a difference between favoritism and reward.  Those that separate themselves from the pack should be rewarded accordingly, but they can’t be rewarded if the system refuses to analyze, criticize, compare and correct them.  This is dangerous, because God, through Solomon, is clear that we need criticism and correction.  Let’s look at the definitions of these words from Noah Webster’s American dictionary of the English Language (1828).  This version is often very different from our modern versions.

Criticism:  The act of judging on the merit of a performance; remark on the beauties and faults; critical observation.

Correction:  The act of bringing back from error or deviation, to a just standard, as to truth, rectitude, justice or propriety; that which is intended to rectify or cure faults; all scripture is profitable for correction (2nd Tim 3); withhold not correction from a child (Prov 23); in scriptural language, whatever tends to correct the moral conduct, and bring back from error or sin; My son, despise not the chastening of the Lord, nor be weary of His correction (Prov 3).

Webster references Paul’s words to Timothy.  Let me give you the rest of it: “All Scripture is inspired by God and is useful to teach us what is true and to make us realize what is wrong in our lives.  It corrects us when we are wrong and teaches us to do what is right.  God uses it to prepare and equip His people to do every good work.” (2nd Tim 3:16,17).  Without correction, we would all go astray.  Earlier in Proverbs Solomon said: “Whoever loves discipline loves knowledge, but he who hates correction is stupid” (12:1).  Solomon was quite possibly the wisest human to ever live, outside of Jesus.  But even Solomon made mistakes.  Not even Solomon could get around the fact that he needed correction.  Godly corrections are purposeful and very necessary.  None of us are perfect.  As believers, who are striving to truly grow, we must welcome correction and not fight against it.  Solomon calls those that do “stupid.”

So what does this mean to you today? Solomon’s warning is clear.  If you reject criticism and correction, it will lead to “poverty and disgrace.”  Many have wrecked their lives by refusing to accept the counsel of those God sent to correct them.  So as you enter this day, determine to be a F.A.T. Christian; meaning: Faithful, Available, and Teachable.

Confession for Today:  Father, I thank You for correcting to me through Your Word, Your Spirit and others.  I need correction and criticism.  I need to be brought back from error and deviation.  All of us, like sheep, go astray, but I declare, by faith, that I will welcome, accept and apply the correction You provide for me.  I shall not end up in poverty and disgrace.  I will be honored in life as I seek to maximize my purpose and potential before I die!  I want to die empty and I know that I cannot without your correction.  Thank You for loving me enough to tell me when I am wrong and for getting me back on Your desired path for my life!  In Jesus’ name.  Amen!

(13:19) Doing what it takes to See Your Dreams Come True

(Prov 13:19 NLT) It is pleasant to see dreams come true, but fools refuse to turn from evil to attain them.

This morning we continue our series, “Unlocking the Power of Proverbs – Walking in the Wisdom of God.”  Yesterday we dealt with making course corrections and we learned that a correction is the act of bringing back from error or deviation; that which is intended to rectify or cure faults.  While we may not all enjoy being corrected, we should definitely welcome Godly correction, so that we can stay on His desired path, with the goal of arriving at his desired destination for our lives.  This morning Solomon talks to us about dreams and how we all love it when dreams come true.  Dreams are powerful.  Harriet Tubman, the woman who was known as the Moses of her people, said: “Every great dream begins with a dreamer.  Always remember, you have within you the strength, the patience, and the passion to reach for the stars to change the world.”  She accomplished what was unfathomable to most, because it was possible to her, because she had a dream and she determined to put the time, energy and effort behind the dream required to see it come to pass.

Journalist Gloria Steinem said: “Without leaps of imagination, or dreaming, we lose the excitement of possibilities.  Dreaming, after all, is a form of planning.”  It’s awesome to dream.  I love to do it.  I like to take the time – every once in a while – to see myself in the future.  I imagine myself doing what I believe the Lord has called me to do and it helps fuel my fire, drive and passion for the present.  But I don’t fool myself.  I know that if the dream is ever going to come to pass, I must make the decisions and put forth the action, in the present, to take me incrementally closer to its reality.  Simply put, dreams will not come to pass by accident.  We must operate with purpose and focus if we ever want to see in our hands, what God has birthed in our hearts.  This is a good reminder this morning because most of us have the tendency to put our lives on autopilot.  We believe we know where we are going, fully expecting to arrive someday.  This technique sounds good and it could work if our path was free of obstacles and detours.  The problem is that our path is never without resistance.  Even subtle changes, if unchecked, can get us severely off course.  That’s’ why Solomon warns us about refusing to turn from evil.  Make no mistake.  Just like we serve a real God, there is a real satan and he will do all that he can to get us off course.  He does not want to see the manifestation of our dreams.  He does not want to see God’s best come to pass in our lives.  So he will his best to distract and divert us from the path to our dreams.  Solomon teaches us that if we refuse to turn from evil, we are fools and we WILL NOT see the manifestation of God’s dreams in our lives.

So what does this mean to you today? It means that self-denial, which fools refuse to endure, is essential to success.  If you are going to arrive at God’s desired end for your life, you are going to have to do it ON PURPOSE; not haphazardly.  I will close with the words of Henry David Thoreau (author and poet).  He said, “I have learned, that if one advances confidently in the direction of his dreams, and endeavors to live the life he has imagined, he will meet with a success unexpected in common hours.”

Confession for Today:  Father, I thank You for putting dreams down inside of me.  Like Joseph, I am a dreamer and my dreams drives me.  And like Joseph, I refuse to allow sin to derail me from Your course.  I know that if I am going to see the manifestation of Your dreams I am going to have to operate on purpose and with focus, so I declare, right now, by faith, that I have the grace, the drive and the dedication to resist satan and his many attempts to get me off course.  I deny satan and self on the road to Your best.  I confidently advance in the direction of my dreams and I meet with uncommon success, in exceptional time, because I am walking with You and I refuse to get off course!  In Jesus’ name.  Amen!

This is Today’s Word!  Apply it and Prosper!

(13:20) Both Wisdom and Foolishness are transferred by Association

(Prov 13:20 MSG) Become wise by walking with the wise; hang out with fools and watch your life fall to pieces.

This morning we continue our series, “Unlocking the Power of Proverbs – Walking in the Wisdom of God.”  In this verse Solomon compares the benefits of walking with the wise, with the perils of hanging with fools.  Remember who is sharing this with us.  Solomon was the wisest man in the land.  He knew first-hand the great lengths that people would go through to spend just a few minutes with him.  How much do you think an hour with Solomon would be worth?  In modern terms, how much do you think people would pay for a one on one hour-long session with Donald Trump, Bill Gates, or Warren Buffett?  From a ministry perspective, how valuable would a one on one hour-long session with Bishop T.D. Jakes, Rev. Billy Graham, or Pastor Rick Warren be?  These are people who are considered masters of their craft and time with them is extremely valuable.  Why?  Because those that go to great lengths to be in their presence are doing so with the hope that their lives would be impacted; that something would rub off.  While we may never get to spend time with any of the aforementioned people for a “transfer” or an “impartation” to take place, we all spend time with people daily that are (whether we acknowledge it or not) influencing our lives.

Later on in Proverbs Solomon said, “Don’t envy evil people or desire their company” (24:1).  Why was Solomon so big on avoiding even the company of evil people?  It’s because Solomon knew that both wisdom and foolishness are transferred by association.  My mother clearly understood this.  She knew the perils of the environment I grew up in (Brooklyn, NY), so she daily told me, “Son, show me who you hang with and I will tell you who you are.”  In other words, “Show me your friends and I will show you your future.”  The people we choose to associate with says a great deal about us.  Most people choose friends that have like interests, ambitions, character, and lifestyle.  I know the term “friend” is used lightly today, but it should be reserved for those that can make positive deposits in our lives and vice-versa.  Since our time on the earth is limited, we should choose carefully whom we spend that time with, because at the end the day (good or bad), they will rub off on us.

When I gave my life to Christ and I knew that I wanted to be a preacher (and some day a Pastor), so I immediately sought the company of preachers.  I wanted to hang out with them.  I was curious to find out what they talked about.  I wanted to see how they carried themselves.  I wanted to observe them around their spouses and children.  What was I doing?  I was learning a new culture, a new environment, a new lifestyle, a new way of living, and I was doing it by association.  I knew that my life had changed, but I also knew that if I wanted to see lasting change I was going to have to change the people I associated with.  Why?  Because if you tell me that you have moved, but I keep finding you at your old address, then maybe you haven’t moved at all.  I know we don’t like to admit it, but in many ways we are a product of our environment.  Surround yourself with the right people and you will become the right person!

So what does this mean to you today? It means that your friends matter!  Some things are taught, but many things are simply caught.  You pickup things from people as you hang out with them, so make sure you are hanging out with the right crowd.  Choose the right friends and you will be influenced the right way.  Surround yourself with fools and you will become a fool yourself.

Confession for Today:  Father, I thank You for explaining to me the importance of the company I keep.  Your Word says, “Bad company corrupts good character” (1st Cor 15:33).  Therefore, I refuse to surround myself with the wrong people.  I understand that both wisdom and foolishness are transferred by association, so I choose to only surround myself with people of like precious faith; people that are striving to be all that You desire for them to be; people of Godly passion and purpose.  I associate with the wise and I become wise myself!  In Jesus’ name.  Amen!

(13:21) Reaping what you Sow

(Prov 13:21 NIrV) Hard times chase those who are sinful.  But success is the reward of those who do right.

This morning we continue our series, “Unlocking the Power of Proverbs – Walking in the Wisdom of God.”  In this verse Solomon compares the hard life of the sinner with the successful life of the believer.  I know that those are ‘broad brush’ terms, but the principles of the Bible support what Solomon is saying.  While we can all find examples of bad things happening to good people and vice-versa, at the end of the day, our decisions and actions will catch up with us.  The New Living Translation makes it plain.  It reads: “Trouble chases sinners, while blessings reward the righteous.”  If you really want to see the two options – the benefits of walking with God and the perils of walking without him – truly ‘fleshed out,’ all you have to do is read Deuteronomy chapter 28.  The chapter opens up with Moses saying, “If you fully obey the LORD your God and carefully keep all His commands that I am giving you today, the LORD your God will…” and he then goes on to lay out 14 verses of promises of both secular and spiritual blessings.  In verse 15 Moses said, “But if you refuse to listen to the LORD your God and do not obey all the commands and decrees I am giving you today, all these curses will come and overwhelm you…” and he proceeded to lay out 53 verses of both secular and spiritual curses.  He spent more than three times the amount of verses explaining the curse than the blessing.  Why go to such great lengths?  I believe it is because the Father wants us to know that our decisions matter.  Our life is a grand-sum-total of our decisions.

Back in the 11th chapter Solomon said, “If good people are rewarded here on this earth, all who are cruel and mean will surely be punished.”  You can’t have reward without judgment.  Our actions are constantly being judged.  God created a system of laws and principles – sowing and reaping, cause and effect, and the free will of humans – that govern the earth.  So, not only WILL we all be judged eventually (ultimate judgment), but our actions are also being judged regularly and we either reap blessing or cursing accordingly.  Read the Bible carefully and it will not take you long to realize that most of God’s promises are conditional.  If we fulfill the condition, we receive the reward.  If we don’t, we miss out.  That’s why I often say, “If you don’t like the harvest you are reaping, check the seed you are sowing.”  At the end of the day, we are where we are, because of the decisions we make.  This means we cannot blame God and we should not blame others.

In Paul’s letter to the church in Galatia he said, “Don’t be misled—you cannot mock the justice of God. You will always harvest what you plant.  Those who live only to satisfy their own sinful nature will harvest decay and death from that sinful nature.  But those who live to please the Spirit will harvest everlasting life from the Spirit.  So let’s not get tired of doing what is good.  At just the right time we will reap a harvest of blessing if we don’t give up” (Gal 6:7-9).

So what does this mean to you today? This is a message of encouragement for the believer who was becoming weary in doing right.  Don’t give up.  Don’t get frustrated.  Don’t throw in the towel.  Don’t quit.  While it may look like some of the unrighteous are getting ahead, don’t overly concern yourself with that.  Pray for their souls and keep your focus on Your heavenly Father and your walk with Him.  He will see to it that you reap what you sow, so keep sowing good seed.  Keep walking upright before Him.  At just the right time you WILL reap a harvest of blessing – if you don’t give up!

Confession for Today:  Father, I thank You for helping me to keep my focus on You, Your goodness, Your loving-kindness and Your tender mercy.  I know that I will reap what I sow and I also know that others will as well.  I pray for those that You lead me to pray for and I seek to run my race with confidence, courage, and commitment.  I thank You for helping me to develop a NO QUIT attitude and because I refuse to quit, and I am determined to sow the right seed, I will experience the success and victory You desire for me to experience!  In Jesus’ name.  Amen!

(13:22) Generational Impact

(Prov 13:22 AMP) A good man leaves an inheritance [of moral stability and goodness] to his children’s children, and the wealth of the sinner [finds its way eventually] into the hands of the righteous, for whom it was laid up.

This morning we continue our series, “Unlocking the Power of Proverbs – Walking in the Wisdom of God.”  In this verse Solomon tells us that a good man leaves and inheritance for his children’s children.  In other words, he makes preparations in his life that will affect the lives of his grandchildren.  He also mentions something interesting and that is that the wealth of the sinner can actually be transferred to the righteous.  Solomon is clearly addressing the financial responsibilities we have as parents, but his point is not limited to just money.  Let’s discuss the financial aspect first.  Solomon knew first-hand the benefits of having a parent who made preparations for them (financially and otherwise).  David started out as a shepherd boy and finished off as a Godly appointed and anointed king.  He transferred the throne, the kingdom and his wealth to his children.  As parents, we should all want to leave our children better of than we were.  We should make the preparations necessary to ensure that we are a blessing and NOT a burden to our children (and grandchildren) when we die.  Simply put, our death should not put undue stress on our children.  They will have enough to deal with.  During the time of bereavement, a financial burden should be the least of their worries.  As Godly parents we must prepare for the inevitable and from Solomon’s perspective, our goal should be to live our lives in such a way that we are actually able to leave an inheritance that will impact two generations.

Now, while the inheritance includes money, it is definitely NOT limited to money.  David prepared Solomon spiritually for his life’s assignment.  God is a God of family and He deals with families.  He is too big of a God and our lifespan is too short of a time for God to JUST focus on us.  When He works on (and in) us, He is looking for lasting change.  He wants the deposit He makes in our lives to become a spiritual legacy that makes generational impact.  It is never God’s intent for the next generation to have to start from scratch (spiritually or financially).  Isaac received a legacy of righteousness from Abraham, Jacob from Isaac, the 12 sons from Jacob, and etc.  God is a God of progression, not regression, and He desires our children have the advantage of tapping into everything that we have learned from Him and about Him, in addition to what they learn on their own.  In other words, my children have access to everything I have learned in God, with God, and about God.  I freely teach them what I know and they can couple that with what they learn themselves.  This gives them a spiritual advantage in life.  But all of this requires effort on the part of the parent.  Parenting is not easy, but it is necessary and the Father expects us to parent with diligence and purpose.

Dr. Mark Hanby said: “A Father must do more than just have children.  He raises his children to become mature adults.  It is a painful, costly, time consuming, life draining, “stay up all hours of the night” type of relationship.  It is not always a joyful experience for the Father or the Son.  The cost is everything a Father has within him.  The benefit is a son who will honor his Father.”

So what does this mean to you today? It means that we are called to parent our children.  That means that we should seek to prepare them (financially and spiritually) for success in life.  Dr. Ted Ward said, “Leadership is a servant relationship that facilitates human development,” and the development of our children should be the goal of our parenting.

Confession for Today:  Father, I thank You for teaching me how to be a Godly parent to my children.  I will make the proper financial preparations required to ensure that, in my death, I will be a blessing and not a burden to my children.  But I don’t wait until death to be a blessing.  I bless my children NOW.  I prepare them NOW – spiritually and financially – for Godly success in life.  I put the Word before them, I cover them in prayer, I share my life lessons, and I take the time to listen to them when they need to talk.  No matter the time, energy, or effort it required, I am committed to leaving an inheritance of righteousness!  In Jesus’ name.  Amen!

(13:23) Being a Blessing to the Poor

(Prov 13:23 NIrV) The fields of poor people might produce a lot of food.  But those who beat them down destroy it all.

This morning we continue our series, “Unlocking the Power of Proverbs – Walking in the Wisdom of God.”  In this verse Solomon points out a problem without really giving us the solution.  Normally he contrasts wrong with right, but in this case he simply points out the wrong.  But believe me, the Bible is full of teaching that spells out the right in this area.  The wrong he highlights that the poor are frequently taken advantage of.  In Solomon’s day the poor often farmed a small plot of land.  While most of the poor today do not own land or have access to land to be able to farm it, it was common in Solomon’s time for the poor to have relatively small portions of land that they could farm (whether they owned it or not).  Solomon tells us that even if the land of the poor produced a great harvest, there was no shortage of people willing to come in and take it from them.

I will be honest with you; this verse was a tough one to understand at first.  I had to read it in several translations to finally get the message.  The Today’s New International Version reads: “An unplowed field produces food for the poor, but injustice sweeps it away.”  The Contemporary English Version reads: “Even when the land of the poor produces good crops, they get cheated out of what they grow.”  What I draw from this is that the poor are often victims of an unjust society.  This is not to say that we should take this lightly or that God looks the other way, it is simply a statement of fact that should cause righteous indignation in God’s children.  It should bother us when the poor are taken advantage of.  It should disturb our spirit that the enemy preys on those who are barely making it.  As believers, we should do what we can to fight injustice and every sort of evil and we should NEVER become the perpetrators of such wrongdoing.

This reminds me of what happened when Hurricanes Katrina and Rita hit the United States.  It did not take long for the unrighteous and the unscrupulous to show up and seek to take advantage of those who had already been devastated.  They were already down, but the ungodly sought to take them down even further.  As children of God, this should NEVER be said of us.

So what does this mean to you today? It means that you should seek to BE a blessing to every person you come in contact with, especially those who are struggling to get by.  The Bible has a lot to say about this, let’s take a look at some scriptures.  Solomon’s father David, said, “Blessed is he that considers the poor: the LORD will deliver him in time of trouble” (Psalm 41:1).  Asaph, the psalmist, told us to, “Give justice to the poor and the orphan; uphold the rights of the oppressed and the destitute.  Rescue the poor and helpless; deliver them from the grasp of evil people” (Psalm 82:3,4).  Jeremiah said, “This is GOD’s Message: Attend to matters of justice.  Set things right between people.  Rescue victims from their exploiters.  Don’t take advantage of the homeless, the orphans, the widows.” (Jer 22:3).  Zechariah said, “Treat one another justly.  Love your neighbors.  Be compassionate with each other.  Don’t take advantage of widows, orphans, visitors, and the poor.  Don’t plot and scheme against one another – that’s evil” (Zec 7:9,10).

Confession for Today:  Father, first of all, I thank You for blessing me to BE a blessing.  Your hand is upon my life and for that I say, “Thank You!”  I recognize how blessed I am and I realize that it is because of Your grace, mercy, loving-kindness, and my effort; but it is surely not just my effort alone.  I shutter to think of where I would be without You in my life.  So I enter this day with humble gratitude and with an open heart towards others.  I will never take advantage of anyone, especially widows, orphans or the poor.  I am here to help, not to hurt; to be a blessing, not a burden.  There are many hurting people in the world and I refuse to add to the problem.  I am here, with You, to be part of the solution!  Use me Father to make a positive impact in the life of someone else today.  In Jesus’ name.  Amen!

(13:24) Disciplining Your Children In Love

(Prov 13:24 NLT) Those who spare the rod of discipline hate their children.  Those who love their children care enough to discipline them.

This morning we continue our series, “Unlocking the Power of Proverbs – Walking in the Wisdom of God.”  In this verse Solomon teaches us something that is not popular today – the importance of disciplining our children.  As believers, the motivation for the discipline should be love.  On the flip side, if we fail to discipline them, he tells that it is as if we literally “hate” them.  If we, as parents, fail to properly discipline our children and we allow them to grow up without boundaries or consequences, not only will we be accountable to God for our neglect (some day), but we will also have to deal with unruly children.  Modern daytime talk shows don’t have to look very far to find children that were not ever truly parented and the results can be devastating; for both the parents and the children.

I want you to be sure about what Solomon is teaching so I will share this verse with you from a few other translations.  The traditional King James Version says, “He that spareth his rod hateth his son: but he that loveth him chasteneth him betimes.”  The Message Bible reads: “A refusal to correct is a refusal to love; love your children by disciplining them.”  The New International Reader’s Version says, “Those who don’t correct their children hate them.  But those who love them are careful to train them.”  While ‘sparing the rod’ immediately makes most people think about spanking young children, Solomon’s counsel is not just limited to physical correction.  With these other translations we see that Godly correction is about providing careful training and instilling the proper discipline in our children that prepares them for their life’s assignment.  Is this painful?  Yes!  Does this take time?  Absolutely!  But if we did not want to parent, we should not have had children.  As Godly parents we must take the time and make the effort to love our children enough to correct them when they are wrong.

Solomon has a great deal to say about this.  He not only wants us to discipline/train our children, but He urges us to start early.  Later in Proverbs he said, “Discipline your children while there is hope.  Otherwise you will ruin their lives” (19:18).  You don’t want to wait until your children are adults to begin to discipline them, because by then they may not hear what you have to say.  They need to know early off in their development that they have parents who love them enough to correct them when they are going astray.  And this leads us back to physical discipline, because you can’t have an hour-long conversation with a little child.  When I tap my little son on the hand for doing something wrong, it registers with his little mind in a way that a five-minute conversation will not.  I am not talking about abuse, but rather discipline, performed in love.  In chapter 23 Solomon said, “Do not withhold discipline from a child; if you punish him with the rod, he will not die.  Punish him with the rod and save his soul from death.”  Remember, this is not about getting some form of sick satisfaction from hitting your child, but rather providing them the correction they need, as part of their development.  Why?  Because Proverbs 22:15 says, “Foolishness abounds in the heart of a child, but the rod of discipline will drive it far from him.”  The Bible has much more to say about this, but I will stop here.

So what does this mean to you today? Simply put, it means that if you love your children you will discipline them; and while they may include some form of physical correction, it is definitely NOT limited to it.  Take the time to parent your children, no matter how much it costs you.  In the end, your labor will not be in vain!

Confession for Today:  Father, thank You for giving me the wisdom and insight to provide my children the training, correction, and discipline they need to develop into the men and women You have called them to be.  I love my children JUST they way they are, but I also love them too much to leave them without correction.  I declare, by faith, that you give me creative ways to reach my children, so that they can understand right from wrong, so that they prepared them for their life’s assignment, and so that I am able to stand before You with clean hands.  I will not neglect my part in their development!  In Jesus’ name.  Amen!

(13:25) Contentment

(Prov 13:25 NLT) An appetite for good brings much satisfaction, but the belly of the wicked always wants more.

This morning we continue our series, “Unlocking the Power of Proverbs – Walking in the Wisdom of God.”  In this verse Solomon contrasts the appetites of the Godly and the wicked.  The appetite Solomon refers to here can also be called your inner drive or inner motivation.  We all have something that drives us to get out of the bed in the morning and face the day.  For many, especially whose without God, it’s the motivation to make money, to get ahead, and to keep up with the proverbial Jones’.  The challenge is for us to be able to answer the following questions: What is enough?  How much ‘stuff’ do you need to be happy?  Do you need the ‘stuff’ to be happy?  Is life about more than just the accumulation of things?

Solomon tells us that the Godly and the wicked both have an appetite, they are both driven by inner motives, but while the Godly enjoys much satisfaction in their walk with Christ, the wicked are never satisfied.  Later on in Proverbs Solomon said, “For the despondent, every day brings trouble; for the happy heart, life is a continual feast” (Prov 15:15).  Every day for the believer should be a feast where we eat, are full in God, and satisfied in His goodness.  Now, this does not mean that ambition is bad, or determination is somehow wicked, but what it does mean is that as a children of God we can aspire to maximize our purpose and potential, while being completely content in our current state.  I don’t mean a contentment that leads to stagnation, but rather one that leads to an internal and overwhelming peace.  This peace, God’s peace, is birthed out of the knowledge that we are in God, He is in us, and He will never leave us helpless or hopeless.  The writer of Hebrews said, “Let your character or moral disposition be free from love of money [including greed, avarice, lust, and craving for earthly possessions] and be satisfied with your present [circumstances and with what you have]; for He [God] Himself has said, I will not in any way fail you nor give you up nor leave you without support. [I will] not, [I will] not, [I will] not in any degree leave you helpless nor forsake nor let [you] down (relax My hold on you)! [Assuredly not!]” (Heb 13:5 AMP).  Greed has ruined many lives, but when we know that God is in us, on us, with us, and for us, we develop the ability to be content wherever we are (physically or financially).

Paul said, “I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances.  I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want” (Phil 4:11,12).  I too can say that I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation.  I am currently in Iraq.  Do I miss my wife?  Absolutely!  So I miss my children?  Dearly!  But do I know that I am here on purpose and I at peace with and in God?  Yes I am!

So what does this mean to you today? It means that the Father wants you to learn the secret of being content in Him.  This is about more than just money, or greed, or an insatiable desire for ‘things.’  It’s about knowing that God is with you wherever you are and in every situation.  Solomon described a wicked person who is never satisfied.  There is a difference between wanting to grow and ungodly ambition.  Never fall into the category of the latter.  Thank God for where you are today, no matter the situation, and receive His inner peace.

Confession for Today:  Father, I thank You for birthing inside of me an inner drive to grow, to develop in You, to evolve into the person You desire for me to be, and to maximize my purpose and potential, in the earth, before I die.  And I also thank You for blessing me to be able to find contentment along the way.  My desire for growth will never disrupt my inner peace in You.  Thank You Father for committing to never leave me helpless and to never relax Your hold on me.  Your presence gives me peace.  I enter this day with an inner drive to grow more, but also with an inner satisfaction for all that I have already grown in You.  In Jesus’ name.  Amen!

This is Today’s Word!  Apply it and Prosper!